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Something Doesn’t Add Up

Someone wise once said “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.”. (Disraeli? Twain?)

Gerald Bracey takes on that last one by taking a closer look at a report reportedly showing the number of engineers being trained in China and India far ahead of those in the US.

Among such recent attention-getting statistics are 600,000, 350,000 and 70,000. These are, allegedly, the number of engineers produced in 2004 in China, India and the United States, respectively. The numbers first drew major notice when they appeared in a Fortune magazine story on July 25, 2005.

As you might expect, those stats were repeated in many of other news outlets and bounced around blogs giving the story more credibility. However, some found the numbers suspicious and decided to dig deeper. (Investigative journalism – what a concept!)

What they found was far different from what Fortune published.

After an exhaustive study, researchers at Duke University also pummeled the numbers. In a December 2005 analysis, “Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate,” they reported that the United States annually produces 137,437 engineers with at least a bachelor’s degree while India produces 112,000 and China 351,537. That’s more U.S. degrees per million residents than in either other nation.

But it’s hard to kill a story like this one. Especially when you have national “leaders” like Education Secretary Margaret Spellings repeating the numbers months after they were shown to be incorrect.

After all, why validate the data when it already fits your political agenda?

statistics, engineers

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1 Comment

  1. Bill

    The quote is Twain’s.

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